SBC-Mitsubishi algae cultivation facility to open next month

An image of a building at Sarawak Biodiversity Centre taken from its website

KUCHING, July 6: Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC), in collaboration with Mitsubishi Corporation, will launch one of the largest outdoor algae cultivation facilities in the Southeast Asian region next month.

The SBC-Mitsubishi algae cultivation facility is expected to yield up to 60 tonnes per hectare per year equivalent of dried algal biomass.

It is an optimised outdoor photobioreactor system that maximises yield and minimises cost by growing indigenous microalgal strains adapted to Sarawak’s tropical environment in 24-metre long, recyclable and economical thin plastic film, flat panel bags.

SBC’s chief executive officer Dr Yeo Tiong Chia said the high surface area to volume ratio, optimal gas-liquid transfer, easy operation and minimal contamination risk afforded by the flat panel bags, will result in improved photosynthetic activity, high biomass productivity and lower production cost.

“Sarawak, with its abundance of sunlight and freshwater and a stable temperature throughout the year, has long been considered an ideal environment for maximising outdoor cultivation of microalgae.

“They are for production of commercial products, including cosmetics, fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, biofuels, fertilisers, food and feedstocks.

“The high yields and cost efficiencies provided by our new facility represent a unique competitive advantage,” he said in a statement.

He added that the SBC-Mitsubishi research team together with the consultative support from Chitose Group successfully designed and developed the Algae Cultivation Facility with a Photo-Bio Reactor (PBR) system using recyclable and economic thin plastic film bags which enabled outdoor cultivation to harness the maximum sunlight at an economical cost.

“Sarawak’s indigenous microalgae strains can be quite robust despite temperamental climate changes because it is adapted to the local climate,” he elaborated.

“The combined cost efficiency and high yield traits give our facility a competitive advantage with optimised production,” Yeo explained.

The SBC-Mitsubishi algae cultivation facility represents the culmination of a collaboration between the two organisations, initiated in 2012, with the aim to identify useful microalgae indigenous to Sarawak for biomass, feedstock, biofuel, food, or health supplement production.

The facility, which was designed in collaboration with Japan-based Chitose Group and built at a cost of RM1.5 million, was completed in November 2018.

With the renewable energy thrust for algae as a source of biofuels continuing to gain traction globally, Yeo pointed out that the high lipid and carotenoid yields observed in Sarawak’s indigenous microalgae strains represent a great potential.

Commenting on the facility, Mitsubishi Corporation Kuala Lumpur branch general manager Genichi Ichikawa said: “It is a great pleasure that our efforts in the collaboration research bear fruit in the form of new ground-breaking facility. We are hoping it would contribute to the creation of bio-industry in Sarawak state.”

The SBC-Mitsubishi algae cultivation facility is located in the heart of Sarawak’s research valley in Semenggoh.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg is expected to launch the facility this August.

An exhibition on microalgae featuring compelling displays, commercial applications and future aspirations will be held at the event.

For further information on the Algae Cultivation Facility launch and corporate partner interest, do contact Hii Mei Mei or Constance Vanessa Victor at 082-610610 or email at — DayakDaily